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Other than Brewing => The Pub => Topic started by: MrNate on September 17, 2010, 06:24:38 PM

Title: Any banjo players here?
Post by: MrNate on September 17, 2010, 06:24:38 PM
I'm starting to think more seriously about learning the bluegrass banjo. Mostly to scare Cap while he's kayaking.

Does anyone here play? Any recommendations for a first banjo? I don't want to spend a ton of money on something I decide I don't like, or get bored with after a few months. Even if it's something that holds its value, NJ isn't exactly banjo buyer's central.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: nicneufeld on September 17, 2010, 06:33:35 PM
Musician's Friend has a house brand named "Rogue", of which I have a mandolin.  They aren't absolute highest quality, but they are usually great for the money -particularly- as a low risk sort of trial instrument for beginners.

Here ya go: 
http://folk-instruments.musiciansfriend.com/product/Rogue-LearntheBanjo-Starter-Pack?sku=511197

Right now the funky instrument I'm trying to learn is Hawaiian lap steel.  Sliding into a chord in C6 tuning is like instant relaxation.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: bluesman on September 17, 2010, 06:49:13 PM
Here ya go.   ;D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uzae_SqbmDE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbNlqXHVyoM&feature=related
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: MrNate on September 17, 2010, 06:54:45 PM
The part where I'm confused is the open back/closed (resonator) back. From what I gather, folk/clawhammer is open back, and bluegrass is resonator. I like both styles, especially the Irish folk style, but I sure as hell don't want to buy 2 banjos! Anyone know if you can play clawhammer on a bluegrass banjo?

Here's one of the ones I was looking at: http://www.banjohut.com/mastercraft_banjo_bluegrass_maho.htm

By the way, I thought all lap steel was Hawaiian - Is there a difference? Steel guitar is another one of my "I wish I could play that" insturments.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: Mikey on September 17, 2010, 07:17:12 PM
Give Steve Martin a call.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: nicneufeld on September 17, 2010, 08:05:37 PM
By the way, I thought all lap steel was Hawaiian - Is there a difference? Steel guitar is another one of my "I wish I could play that" insturments.

Plenty of uses in varieties of blues, and in some rock genres sporadically (Steve Howe uses one to great effect in "And You And I" with Yes).  Country is much more strongly devoted to the pedal steel, which is much like the lap steel, except you have pedals to vary certain string pitches.  With lap steel, slants are the only way to get more varied chords.  Slants take a lot of work to get right I think!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA5I5PQE4QU

I'll throw sitar in there too as a longtime ambition.  Big fan of Shankar and Ustad Vilyat Khan.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: MrNate on September 18, 2010, 12:46:30 AM
Very funny, guys. Yes, my family tree does have a branch or two.

Nic, when you say "slants" does that mean angling the steel across the strings?
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: nicneufeld on September 18, 2010, 12:53:16 AM
Nic, when you say "slants" does that mean angling the steel across the strings?

I think so...like I say, I'm a beginner at lap steel.  The idea generally, as I understand it, is getting things like minor chord intervals, among other intervals.  In a major C6 tuning, to pick at random, to get that minor 3rd you're gonna need to do a slant, which...well, I suck at.

Thankfully, Aloha O'e doesn't have any minor chords!   ;D
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: tubercle on September 18, 2010, 01:04:11 AM
Tubercle plays banjo, guitar and mandolin.

 Beware of cheap as a first instrument. It will sound like crap and play like crap and you will quicky become discouraged and quit. I've already been down that road.

Get a decent one. Fender has some decent mid-priced ones that won't make you want to quit. Cheap ones loose value immediately, what little they have, while good ones hold their value in case you find its not for you and want to sell. Kind of like guns.


 You can play 2 or 3 finger style or claw hammer on an open back or one with a resonator, it don't matter. Clawhammer is traditionally played on an open back and with a skin (vellum) head. Bluegrass 3 finger picking style is usually played on a closed back with a plastic head merely for the volume and the "snap".
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: MrNate on September 18, 2010, 01:08:03 AM
Yeah... I'm definitely coming at this from a disadvantage because I don't have any kind of musical background to start with. After watching some of the videos on youtube I think I might have to tattoo "Matthew 6:3" on my inside left wrist, because I can't see picking like those guys do without divine intervention.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: capozzoli on September 18, 2010, 01:13:26 AM
My axe is the cow bell.

Hey, ill go as far as camping with guitar music. You guys bust the banjos out and Im-a- runnin.

"Take off them panties."

Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: tubercle on September 18, 2010, 01:15:55 AM
My axe is the cow bell.

Hey, ill go as far as camping with guitar music. You guys bust the banjos out and Im-a- runnin.

"Take off them panties."



Ain't he got a purty mouth?
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: MrNate on September 18, 2010, 01:17:15 AM
Tubercle plays banjo, guitar and mandolin.

 Beware of cheap as a first instrument. It will sound like crap and play like crap and you will quicky become discouraged and quit. I've already been down that road.

Get a decent one. Fender has some decent mid-priced ones that won't make you want to quit. Cheap ones loose value immediately, what little they have, while good ones hold their value in case you find its not for you and want to sell. Kind of like guns.


 You can play 2 or 3 finger style or claw hammer on an open back or one with a resonator, it don't matter. Clawhammer is traditionally played on an open back and with a skin (vellum) head. Bluegrass 3 finger picking style is usually played on a closed back with a plastic head merely for the volume and the "snap".

Yeah... trouble is, seems like mid-range for a banjo is $800 or so. There's a video on this page of a guy playing this one, would you mind listening to it and telling me how you think it sounds?

http://www.banjohut.com/mastercraft_player_deluxe_banjo.htm
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: nicneufeld on September 18, 2010, 01:29:44 AM
I don't know how much banjos differ from guitars...I've tinkered with them, the principles are pretty much the same, albeit of course tuning differences and soundbox construction and such like.  A cheap banjo will not necessarily lead you on to greater heights of playing, but if you aren't prone to playing, it at least will represent a cheaper investment.  I've known plenty of folks who get motivated to play guitar, and then get convinced that they need to buy a Martin, and find out, wow, chords are going to take a few months of good work to get down right, and then they become an owner of a nicer guitar that many excellent guitarists don't even own. 

A cheap banjo is guaranteed to not be sufficient for most folks when they approach the advanced or even intermediate stage, but it just depends on how certain you are that you'll hit those stages...I still have my beginner stage guitars, an old used Yamaha superstrat from the 80s, and I love that thing, crappy neck and pickups notwithstanding.

Put it this way, if you can make a Rogue banjo sound as good as it can, then you'll be then at the level you can make a more expensive banjo sound great, and you'll probably be happy to spend the money.  But if you jump into name brand banjos, you're statistically likely to be the equivalent of that guy that bought the stainless conical fermentor cause he was told it was the best way and decided after his first batch that homebrewing wasn't for him.  :D  Good luck regardless!
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: tubercle on September 18, 2010, 01:36:16 AM
Tubercle plays banjo, guitar and mandolin.

 Beware of cheap as a first instrument. It will sound like crap and play like crap and you will quicky become discouraged and quit. I've already been down that road.

Get a decent one. Fender has some decent mid-priced ones that won't make you want to quit. Cheap ones loose value immediately, what little they have, while good ones hold their value in case you find its not for you and want to sell. Kind of like guns.


 You can play 2 or 3 finger style or claw hammer on an open back or one with a resonator, it don't matter. Clawhammer is traditionally played on an open back and with a skin (vellum) head. Bluegrass 3 finger picking style is usually played on a closed back with a plastic head merely for the volume and the "snap".

Yeah... trouble is, seems like mid-range for a banjo is $800 or so. There's a video on this page of a guy playing this one, would you mind listening to it and telling me how you think it sounds?

http://www.banjohut.com/mastercraft_player_deluxe_banjo.htm

 Yea, unfortunately $800.00 is mid-range.

 That one in the video sound decent, good sustain and plenty of snap. A banjo is very adjustable as far as tone goes with the tension on the head and such, so one can be tinkered with to get the sound you want.

 I'd risk $229 on that because of the mahogany (gives a bright tone, not like maple, but good enough) Geared 5th Peg & Adjustable Truss Rod. Any decent music shop has a luthier that can set it up right as far as neck bow, string height and head tension to you liking for about 50 bucks.

 If you want to pick a banjo, go for it.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: tubercle on September 18, 2010, 01:57:31 AM
I don't know how much banjos differ from guitars...I've tinkered with them, the principles are pretty much the same, albeit of course tuning differences and soundbox construction and such like.  A cheap banjo will not necessarily lead you on to greater heights of playing, but if you aren't prone to playing, it at least will represent a cheaper investment.  I've known plenty of folks who get motivated to play guitar, and then get convinced that they need to buy a Martin, and find out, wow, chords are going to take a few months of good work to get down right, and then they become an owner of a nicer guitar that many excellent guitarists don't even own. 

A cheap banjo is guaranteed to not be sufficient for most folks when they approach the advanced or even intermediate stage, but it just depends on how certain you are that you'll hit those stages...I still have my beginner stage guitars, an old used Yamaha superstrat from the 80s, and I love that thing, crappy neck and pickups notwithstanding.

Put it this way, if you can make a Rogue banjo sound as good as it can, then you'll be then at the level you can make a more expensive banjo sound great, and you'll probably be happy to spend the money.  But if you jump into name brand banjos, you're statistically likely to be the equivalent of that guy that bought the stainless conical fermentor cause he was told it was the best way and decided after his first batch that homebrewing wasn't for him.  :D  Good luck regardless!


 I agree with all you say. Holding a Martin in your lap won't make you play like Doc Watson. But, as you get better and better a "cheaper" instrument will hit its limits and you can't get out of a rouge what you can out of a D-18.

  Not starting too cheap is important also because at first you will want to emulate what you hear and know and what you hear and know isn't played on cheap junk. The first guitar I had was nothing more than a piece of plywood with a fence post nailed to it. It was an Oscar Schmidt which is an old Indian word for "one grade above Dog $^&t . I almost quit because of it. Luckily, I played a friend's better grade instrument and soon up graded which kept me with it. After about 30 years I finally own a Martin 8), not because it makes me a better player but because...well I've always wanted one. Now that I have it I wish I had it (and could have afforded it) 30 years ago.


 Go find a banjo player somewhere and take them with you to evaluate what you want to buy in your price range so they can make sure it doesn't have any nasty buzzing and the neck is straight. Ask anyone of them and I guarantee they will be glad to help you out. But most important is get something. Learn music.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: MrNate on September 18, 2010, 02:30:16 AM
I used to read music back in elementary school. Hopefully I can learn again.

Thanks for the help, guys. I may go and spend some of that birthday money. Then maybe find one of the 2 banjo players in New Jersey.  ;D
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: bluesman on September 18, 2010, 09:40:46 PM
I love the sound of a banjo twanging along side the sound of a rolling river.  It's was born right here in America. Primitive forms of the instrument were fashioned by enslaved Africans in Colonial America, adapted from several African instruments.  It is definitely an American sound.

I am a bluegrass fan among many others. The tone of the banjo is very soothing and gratifying to me. I want to learn how to play myself. I play the guitar, bass, drums and sax, but the banjo is next on my list for sure.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: MrNate on September 19, 2010, 12:53:38 AM
Easy to learn, hard to master is what they say.

Just found out that a buddy of mine just gave away a 4-string... Damn!
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: bluesman on September 19, 2010, 01:34:00 PM
Easy to learn, hard to master is what they say.

Just found out that a buddy of mine just gave away a 4-string... Damn!

yard sales.  ;)
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: The Professor on September 19, 2010, 02:57:41 PM
I never learned to play the banjo but have always loved it (I'm mainly a piano / keyboards guy). 

One of these days though I will dust off this old "banjolin" that a long departed friend gave me many years ago.  It's probably more than 75 years old, a bit smaller than your average banjo (but not by much) and looks like one, except it is eight stringed and tuned like a mandolin.  It doesn't need major work and I've already spoken to a luthier about it and the job won't be too terribly expensive. 

Hopefully I'll finally learn to play the thing before the ol' arthritis gets worse!
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: thirsty on September 19, 2010, 05:10:17 PM
My girlfriend got me a Washburn B-9 banjo a few years ago for xmas. It was about $200-$250. I have a long way to go before Earl Scruggs gets worried, but this thing seems fine for a beginner and it doesn't take long to sound like an ok player. It's easier if you already know the guitar, but it's not too tough to pick up. There are plenty of sites on how to play too.

My only warning is that even without using fingerpicks, a banjo is REALLY LOUD.
Title: Re: Any banjo players here?
Post by: tubercle on September 20, 2010, 12:05:37 AM
Easy to learn, hard to master is what they say.


 It actually plays you :D